There is an age-old question: Should we focus our efforts, specialize in one area and become an expert in that specific field, or should we aim to be generalists and learn a little bit of everything so we can find our way around the digital marketing wilderness?
The answer is: both! It even has an official name — a T-shaped marketer!
Let’s see who T-shaped marketers are, the skills they need to acquire, and the benefits they bring to marketing agencies.
Who is a T-shaped marketer?
A T-shaped marketer is a person with a broad general understanding of all marketing fields and a deep knowledge of one or a few of them.
It’s important they know what can be achieved outside of their specialty, but they do not necessarily need to know exactly HOW to achieve it.
T-shaped marketer model (Source)
For instance, an SEO expert will possess a deep understanding of:
- On-page optimization: How to optimize website content and structure for search engines; includes SEO titles, meta descriptions, headings, and content.
- Search engine algorithms: Deep understanding of how search engines rank websites.
- Keyword research: The ability to identify relevant keywords and phrases to target for optimization.
- Link building: How to earn and build links through various link-building techniques.
- Technical SEO: Knowledge about technical aspects of SEO — site structure, crawlability, and mobile optimization.
- Local SEO: How to optimize a website for local search, including Google My Business, local listings, and local keywords.
- Analytics: Proficiency in using tools such as Google Analytics to track and analyze website traffic and performance.
To be a T-shaped marketer, they also need to acquire a general knowledge of areas like content marketing, paid advertising, social media management, and user experience (UX).
An understanding of these areas will help them work more effectively with other members of the marketing team.
The benefits of employing T-shaped marketers
Having T-marketers on your team may lead to skills overlapping in some parts of the work.
However, the advantages are huge and visible in every phase of a marketing campaign’s lifecycle. Some of them are:
- Higher flexibility, as T-shaped marketers are ready to take on temporary assignments in areas they are not necessarily specialized for.
- Smaller tasks are accomplished faster, as there is no need to wait for a specialist’s intervention.
- Ideas are generated faster, as everyone has a certain level of knowledge and can participate in the brainstorming process.
- Communication is way easier to lead and follow.
3 components of a T-shaped marketer
In order to become an expert in one field and an all-rounder in others, a T-shaped marketer must possess specific abilities and skills.
These can be divided into three main components:
- base knowledge
- marketing foundations
- channel expertise
Non-marketing knowledge that every employee, no matter the career path, should possess. It includes various general skills such as:
- data collection and analytics
T-shaped marketers have a strong foundation in the above-mentioned areas.
These foundations entail marketing-specific knowledge useful across multiple, if not all, marketing channels. This includes skills like:
- A/B testing
- graphic design (Canva, Sketch…)
- excel and statistics
- understanding the marketing funnel
- user and customer experience
This is the knowledge each marketer should strive to understand and continuously upgrade. It will allow them to successfully cooperate with other marketers in their department, but also with other marketing departments that are not so closely related to areas they specialize in.
Not all marketers can or should have the same marketing foundations. It will all depend on what your agency needs — if your focus is on email marketing you’ll need more people with copywriting foundations.
Still, for a T-shaped marketer, a basic understanding of the concepts and tools listed above is not optional.
This implies knowledge about customer acquisition channels such as:
- content marketing
- social media
- paid aids
Becoming an expert in all the above-mentioned channels wouldn’t be possible as things change rapidly — new marketing trends, tools, regulations, and practices, etc.
T-shaped marketers usually have a general knowledge of each of these channels, with a focus on one or a couple of channels in which they build expertise.
General knowledge allows better communication and cooperation with other experts on their team, while one-channel expertise makes them indispensable for the chosen area.
Steps for becoming a T-shaped marketer
To identify the area they should specialize in, marketers should find the middle ground between three things:
- what they enjoy doing
- what they’re good at
- what their company needs
And then beef up their knowledge around that.
Here are a few simple steps to follow for those who want to call themselves a T-shaped marketer:
- Start with the basics: Revisit the marketing basics and fill potential gaps in your knowledge. You don’t need a marketing degree for that. Instead, find good online guides or enroll in relevant marketing courses.
- Define your expertise: Ask yourself what you’re good at. Once you find your specialty, work continuously on becoming better in that area. Otherwise, your options and value as a marketer will be severely limited.
- Find your weakest point(s): Find your Achilles’ heel and build up that knowledge. Seek help and guidance from team members who are more experienced.
- Stay up-to-date: Stay up-to-date with the latest trends and marketing tools, and incorporate them into your daily activities. If this is an agency-wide effort, colleagues should inform each other about major trends and changes in their respective fields of marketing.
Are T-shaped marketers the past or the future?
More and more companies are seeking marketing professionals who have a well-rounded understanding of the field, while also having the ability to dive deep into a specific area and drive results.
It’s hard to predict the future of digital marketing, but T-shaped marketers are likely to have an advantage in the evolving job market. Their high flexibility, great collaboration skills, and strategic thinking are competencies every employer is looking for.
That said, the most realistic scenario is one in which brands and digital agencies continue hiring both generalists and specialists.
For more digital marketing related content, keep browsing the Point Visible blog.